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McCaughrean, Geraldine 1951-

McCaughrean, Geraldine 1951-
(Geraldine Jones)


Personal


Surname is pronounced "Mc-cork-ran"; born June 6, 1951, in London, England; daughter of Leslie Arthur (a fireman) and Ethel (a teacher; maiden name, Thomas) Jones; married John McCaughrean; children: Ailsa. Education: Attended Southgate Technical College, Middlesex, 1969-70; Christ Church College, Canterbury, B.Ed. (with honors), 1977.

Addresses


Home—England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail—[email protected]

Career


Thames Television, London, England, secretary, 1970-73; Marshall Cavendish Ltd., London, assistant editor, 1977-80, subeditor, 1978-79, staff writer, 1982, 1983-88; Carreras-Rothman Ltd., Aylesbury, England, editorial assistant, 1980-81; writer, 1981—.

Awards, Honors


Winner in short-story category, All-London Literary Competition, Wandsworth Borough Council, 1979, for "The Pike"; Whitbread Award, 1987, for A Little Lower than the Angels; Carnegie Medal, British Library Association, and London Guardian Award, both 1989, both for A Pack of Lies; Smarties Bronze Medal, 2001, for The Kite Rider.

Writings


YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS


A Little Lower than the Angels, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1987.

A Pack of Lies, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1988.

Gold Dust, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1993.

The Kite Rider, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Stop the Train!, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

Not the End of the World, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2005.

Cyrano (based on the play by Edmund Rostand), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2006.

The White Darkness, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2007.

FOR CHILDREN; RETELLER


One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, illustrated by Stephen Lavis, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1982, illustrated by Rosamund Fowler, 1999.

The Canterbury Tales, illustrated by Victor Ambrus, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1984, Rand McNally (Skokie, IL), 1985.

The Story of Noah and the Ark, illustrated by Helen Ward, Templar (Dorking, England), 1987.

The Story of Christmas, illustrated by Helen Ward, Templar (Dorking, England), 1988.

Saint George and the Dragon, illustrated by Nicki Palin, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.

El Cid, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1989.

The Orchard Book of Greek Myths, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, Orchard (London, England), 1992, published as Greek Myths, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1993.

The Odyssey, illustrated by Victor Ambrus, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1993.

Stories from Shakespeare, illustrated by Antony Maitland, Orion Children's Books (London, England), 1994.

The Orchard Book of Stories from the Ballet, illustrated by Angela Barrett, Orchard (London, England), 1994, published as The Random House Book of Stories from the Ballet, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World, illustrated by Bee Willey, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1996.

God's People: Stories from the Old Testament, illustrated by Anna C. Leplar, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1997.

The Silver Treasure: Myths and Legends of the World, illustrated by Bee Willey, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1997.

The Bronze Cauldron, illustrated by Bee Willey, Orion Children's Books (London, England), 1997, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orchard (London, England), 1997.

Daedalus and Icarus, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orchard (London, England), 1997.

The Wooden Horse, illustrated by Tony Ross, Orchard (London, England), 1997.

The Orchard Book of Greek Gods and Goddesses, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, Orchard (London, England), 1997, published as Greek Gods and Goddesses, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Story of the Nativity, conceived and illustrated by Ruth Wickings, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.

Casting the Gods Adrift: A Tale of Ancient Egypt, illustrated by Patricia D. Ludlow, A. & C. Black (London, England), 1998, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2002.

The Crystal Pool: Myths and Legends of the World, illustrated by Bee Willey, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1999.

God's Kingdom: Stories from the New Testament, illustrated by Anna C. Leplar, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1999.

The Orchard Book of Roman Myths, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, Orchard (London, England), 1999, published as Roman Myths, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Beauty and the Beast, illustrated by Gary Blythe, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.

Starry Tales, illustrated by Sophy Williams, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales, illustrated by Sophy Williams, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003.

Gilgamesh the Hero, illustrated by David Parkins, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2003.

Odysseus, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2004.

Theseus, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Perseus, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Hercules, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003, Cricket Books (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Also author of Athena and the Olive Tree, and Other Greek Myths and Zeus Conquers the Titans, and Other Greek Myths, both illustrated by Tony Ross.

FOR CHILDREN


Seaside Adventure, illustrated by Chrissie Wells, Hamlyn (London, England), 1986.

Tell the Time, illustrated by Chrissie Wells, Hamlyn (London, England), 1986.

(Adapter) Michel Tilde, Who's That Knocking at My Door?, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1986.

My First Space Pop-up Book, illustrated by Mike Peterkin, Little Simon (New York, NY), 1989.

My First Earth Pop-up Book, illustrated by Mike Peterkin, Little Simon (New York, NY), 1990.

(Adapter) The Snow Country Prince, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.

(Adapter) Daisaku Ikeda, The Princess and the Moon, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.

(Adapter) Daisaku Ikeda, The Cherry Tree, illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

(Adapter) Daisaku Ikeda, Over the Deep Blue Sea, illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.

Blue Moon Mountain, illustrated by Nicki Palin, Golden (London, England), 1994.

Blue Moo, illustrated by Colin Smithson, Longman (Harlow, England), 1994.

How the Reindeer Got Their Antlers, illustrated by Debi Gliori, Orchard (London, England), 1995, illustrated by Heather Holland, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2000.

On the Day the World Began, illustrated by Norman Bancroft-Hunt, Longman (Harlow, England), 1995.

The Quest of Isis, illustrated by David Sim, Longman (Harlow, England), 1995.

Wizziwig and the Crazy Cooker, Orchard (London, England), 1995.

Wizziwig and the Singing Chair, Orchard (London, England), 1995.

Wizziwig and the Sweet Machine, Orchard (London, England), 1995.

Wizziwig and the Wacky Weather Machine, Orchard (London, England), 1995.

Unicorns! Unicorns!, illustrated by Sophie Windham, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1997.

The Pirate's Son, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

My First Oxford Book of Stories, illustrated by Ruby Green, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1999.

The Stones Are Hatching, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

Grandma Chickenlegs, illustrated by Moira Kemp, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.

Six Storey House, illustrated by Ross Collins, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2002.

One Bright Penny, illustrated by Paul Howard, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.

My Grandmother's Clock, illustrated by Stephen Lambert, Clarion (New York, NY), 2002.

The Jesse Tree, illustrated by Bee Willey, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2003.

Doctor Quack, illustrated by Ross Collins, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2003.

Dog Days, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2003.

Jalopy: A Car's Story in Five Drivers, illustrated by Ross Collins, Orchard (London, England), 2003.

Smile!, illustrated by Ian McCaughrean, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2004, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Sky Ship, and Other Stories, A. & C. Black (London, England), 2004.

Fig's Giant, illustrated by Jago, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2005.

Peter Pan in Scarlet, illustrated by David Wyatt, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2006, illustrated by Scott M. Fischer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of elementary-grade readers for Oxford University Press.

Author's works have been translated into other languages, including Welsh.

OTHER


(Under name Geraldine Jones) Adventure in New York (textbook), illustrated by Cynthia Back, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1979.

(Under name Geraldine Jones) Raise the Titanic (textbook), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1980.

(Under name Geraldine Jones) Modesty Blaise (textbook), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1981.

The Maypole (adult novel), Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1989.

Fires' Astonishment (adult novel), Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1990.

Vainglory (adult novel), J. Cape (London, England), 1991.

Lovesong (adult novel), Richard Cohen Books, 1994.

The Ideal Wife (adult novel), Richard Cohen Books, 1997.

Editor, Banbury Focus, 1981-82; subeditor and writer of stories for Storyteller and Great Composers.

Adaptations


Many of McCaughrean's books have been adapted as audiobooks, among them The Kite Rider, Full Cast Audio, 2004; A Pack of Lies, BBC Audio, 2005; and Stop the Train!, Full Cast Audio, 2005.

Sidelights


With dozens of published books to her credit, British writer Geraldine McCaughrean has penned novels for young adults as well as stories for children; she has adapted tales, myths, and legends from various cultures, and she has written adult fiction and textbooks. Whatever her subject, McCaughrean brings a flair for intricate prose and exciting storytelling to her writing. "Reading McCaughrean," Eileen Dunlop asserted in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, "reinforces the belief that a good book is for everyone capable of read- ing it, regardless of its intended primary audience." Among her most popular works for young adults are the novels Stop the Train!, Not the End of the World, and the award-winning The Kite Rider while retellings include Shahrazad's One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and classical myths about Theseus, Perseus, and Odysseus. Other works include an anthology of fairy tales and stories less familiar to Western readers, as in Casting the Gods Adrift: A Tale of Ancient Egypt.

As a testament to her writing talent and wide-ranging popularity, McCaughrean was selected from among hundreds of writers by London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children to write a sequel to Peter Pan, the children's classic penned by Scottish novelist J.M. Barrie. First published as a stage play in 1904, the book's rights were bequeathed to the hospital in 1929, six years before Barrie's death. McCaughrean's sequel, titled Peter Pan in Scarlet, was translated into over thirty languages and published in 2006. "Only the most stony-hearted, dyed-in-the-wool Peter Pan fan could fail to be charmed by Geraldine McCaughrean's lightness of touch, sureness of writing and sparkling imagination,"

wrote Philip Ardagh of the novel in his review for the London Guardian. In McCaughrean's sequel, the novelist follows the trajectory of Barrie's original story, allowing Wendy and the Lost Boys to age, transforming some characters in surprising ways, and turning the whole into what Ardagh described as "an extraordinary achievement" that will appeal to both adults and children.

Beginning her career as a writer/editor for various British publishers, McCaughrean started her career as a children's author with her retelling of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, a series of tales told by the legendary Shahrazad to her royal husband as a way to postpone the woman's execution. McCaughrean was immediately praised for her inspired storytelling and her ability to make the familiar stories of Sinbad, Aladdin, and Ali Baba seem exciting and original. Marcus Crouch commented in Junior Bookshelf that with One Thousand and One Arabian Nights McCaughrean achieves a "brilliant tour de force in what is not so much a translation as a thorough reworking of the tales," and that she uses "the original as the starting point of a piece of individual creative enterprise."

In The Canterbury Tales, McCaughrean takes fourteenth-century writer Geoffrey Chaucer's classic story collection and focuses on the pilgrimage to Canterbury itself. She tones down the content of some of the more ribald tales, and then, "in colorful style and language, … creatively reconstructs and adds conversation, event and detail, in keeping with the medieval times, to stitch the tales together," as Ruth M. McConnell described it in School Library Journal. While he felt that several of the tales lose something in the retelling, Times Educational Supplement contributor Terry Jones noted that "McCaughrean's real achievement is the way she has succeeded in turning the whole pilgrimage itself into a story, and has brought that far-off medieval expedition to life in a quite remarkable way." In Junior Bookshelf, Crouch concluded that in The Canterbury Tales McCaughrean "captures most beautifully the mood of the pilgrimage, the high spirits, the smell of the countryside and the muddy road."

McCaughrean's first novel, A Little Lower than the Angels, won the coveted Whitbread Children's Novel Award in 1987. It is a complex, multilevel drama set in medieval England during the time when traveling players performed Mystery plays in towns and villages throughout the British countryside. The story centers around Gabriel, a stonemason's apprentice who runs away from his cruel master to join a troupe of players. The boy's flowing blond curls make him a natural to play the part of the angel Gabriel. Then the superfi- cially benevolent playmaster Garvey, seizing a chance to increase the troupe's wealth and popularity, convinces the boy to play an off-stage role as a faith healer. Gabriel soon starts to believe in his own power, questions the rightness of his actions when he is asked for help by townspeople dying of the plague and desperate for a miracle. McCaughrean "has triumphed in her first novel in presenting the lives of ordinary people of the past, in direct, present-day language, with just a few archaisms to set the scene, and relevant historical information," Jessica Yates wrote in British Book News Children's Books. As Crouch similarly concluded in Junior Bookshelf, A Little Lower than the Angels "is a very good novel, rich in uncluttered historical detail, written with sensitive fluency, and with a gallery of memorable characters."

McCaughrean's Carnegie Medal-winning novel A Pack of Lies demonstrates several different approaches to storytelling. Ailsa Povey and her mother eke out a living selling antiques out of their dilapidated shop. One day, Ailsa meets a mysterious young man named MCC Berkshire, who offers to help in the shop in exchange for room and board. He is spectacularly successful, as he weaves elaborate stories about each item for sale, and enthralling customers into making purchases. Every tale displays his—and McCaughrean's—brilliance as a storyteller, as each one reflects a different literary style. "Each is an utterly convincing example of its kind, enthralling the reader in a web of make-believe," Valerie Caless observed in School Librarian. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly similarly hailed the author's "leaps from genre to genre, in the writing equivalent of sleight of hand," and added that McCaughrean "pulls off each meta-fictional complexity with finesse and humor."

A Pack of Lies is more than just a collection of stories, however, as the novel's ending reveals. MCC does not stay around the shop for long, and after his departure, the disconsolate Ailsa picks up a book and finds herself a character in a story about MCC, their meeting, and his time in the shop. As Caless asked, "Who, then, is the fiction and who the liar telling it? Is Ailsa a figment of MCC's imagination or he of hers?" As Stephanie Nettell concluded in Books for Keeps: "More than anything, A Pack of Lies is an exuberant celebration of fiction's spell, a smiling surrender to the grip of the unruly imagination, a playful introduction to the riches of style that lie waiting in books."

McCaughrean also shows the depth of her imagination in the historical novels Gold Dust, The Kite Rider, and Stop the Train! Gold Dust is set in a poor mining town in Brazil. The effects of uncontrolled greed caused by the discovery of gold are seen through the eyes of Inez de Souza and her brother Maro, who watch as their town is slowly destroyed and its inhabitants corrupted by a gold rush. "Sharp observations on a kaleidoscope of topics enliven every page, often underlined by ironic humour, whether understated … or sharper," Brian Slough wrote in the Times Educational Supplement. As Crouch commented in his Junior Bookshelf review, with its "sparkling" language and "wonderfully inventive, consistent and hideously convincing" plot, Gold Dust is "an engrossing, funny, tragic blockbuster of a story."

In the award-winning The Kite Rider McCaughrean takes readers back in time to the thirteenth century, and introduces twelve-year-old Hanoyou. After his father's death, the boy agrees to take over the job of provider, and works aboard ship as a kite rider: one who tests the winds and the will of the gods by sailing above the masts while tied to a large kite. Hoping to prevent his widowed mother from marrying an evil ship's mate, Hanoyou goes on a journey with his older cousin, the wise and beautiful Mipeng, and amazes audiences with his skill at riding a kite up into the heavens, where he pretends to commune with the spirits of the dead. The cousins are soon then approached by the charismatic Miao Je, who asks the pair to join his traveling circus. The group journeys to the court of famed Mongul leader Kublai Khan, the conqueror of China. As her characters wrestle with love, revenge, racism, trust, duty, and honor, McCaughrean spins a story that Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser praised as "truly marvelous," "amazingly imaginative, exotic, and challenging."

Moving even further back in time, Not the End of the World brings to light the experiences of those fortunate enough to win passage on Noah's famed ark, and thus be saved from the deadly tidal wave that covers Earth. Narrated by animals as well as by Noah's family members, the book "raises thought-provoking questions in its expansion and exploration of an ancient tale," according to School Library Journal contributor Kathy Piehl. Portraying Noah as a zealot, McCaughrean brings life to this biblical character, and gives the ark builder a wife named Ama, a son named Japheth, and a daughter named Timna, the last who is the book's primary storyteller. In what Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper called "a powerfully crafted, uneasy read," Timna describes a voyage that is trying due to the filthy conditions and the deprivations suffered by those afloat for the forty long days it took the waters to recede. As a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted, through the girl's impressions, McCaughrean "masterfully transforms the famous biblical story" into a "provocative retelling."

"The literary equivalent of a grand old western movie," according to a Publishers Weekly critic, Stop the Train! takes place in the early twentieth century and focuses on a group of settlers making a new home in the wilds of Oklahoma. The settlers have such pride in their new town, which they name Florence, that they refuse to sell their land when a powerful railroad tycoon makes them an offer. Angered, the railroad owner refuses to build a station in Florence, thus threatening the future of the struggling community unless residents can find a way to get passing trains to stop. Grounded by a "strong sense of community spirit," the story paints a "busy panorama that's just exaggerated enough to ward off … picky questions of historical accuracy," noted Horn Book contributor Peter D. Sieruta. Bruce Anne Shook deemed the story a "rollicking tale" featuring "eccentric but lovable characters and their unusual exploits" in her School Library Journal review.

In addition to writing fiction, McCaughrean has produced numerous retellings and adaptations, among them Saint George and the Dragon, her version of the story of England's patron saint. Traveling across the countryside, George of Lydda comes across Sabra, the king's daughter, who has been tied to the stake as a sacrifice to the dragon—a slimy, lizard-like creature named Wickedness, whose father is Evil and whose mother is Darkness. In El Cid, McCaughrean retells the story of one of Spain's most famous heroes, Rodrigo Diaz. Exiled from Castile, he went on to become a brilliant warrior and recaptured Spanish territory previously lost to the invading Moors. "McCaughrean shows herself a grand storyteller," a Kirkus Reviews critic remarked of El Cid; "she presents this prototypical chivalric knight in a lively narrative sparked with humor, drama, and her hero's daring trickery."

In her retellings of both The Odyssey and The Orchard Book of Greek Myths (published in the United States as Greek Myths), McCaughrean uses humor to create interest and excitement for younger readers. Janet Tayler, reviewing The Odyssey for School Librarian, noted that here the adventures of Odysseus are retold in a "lively, rather tongue-in-cheek manner," while Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist that the stories in Greek Myths are "direct, robust, and gleeful." While Pauline Long noted that Greek Myths is not intended as a reference tool, she added in School Librarian that "its real purpose is to delight and entertain—and this it does in flamboyant style." As Rochman commented, McCaughrean's stories have the "dramatic immediacy" of familiar legends: "‘Long ago, when fortune-tellers told the truth, there lived a very frightened man.’ How can you not read on?"

In her "Heroes" series, McCaughrean profiles four of the most well-known ancient heroes: Theseus, Odysseus, Hercules, and Perseus. "Those who wonder why the ancient heroes are worth knowing will be richly answered," a Kirkus Reviews writer note of Theseus, which follows the story of the son whose coming was foretold to King Aegeus in the Oracle of Delphi. Ultimately banished from his family after bringing tragedy to his father's home, Theseus goes on to encounter the Minotaur, Amazonian Queen Hippolyta, and Procrustes, among other creatures. Featuring a similar beginning, the hero of Perseus bravely confronts the head of Medusa and ultimately saves the beautiful Andromeda. Citing McCaughrean's ability to blend "the colloquial and contemporary," Hazel Rochman wrote in Booklist that with Perseus the author's "rhythmic storytelling of the gruesome and the heroic … will grab kids." Other ancient heroes are brought to life by McCaughrean in books such as Gilgamesh the Hero, which tells the oldest recorded story in human history.

McCaughrean adapts a series of Bible stories as God's People: Stories from the Old Testament, and also draws on folklore from around the world for The Silver Treasure: Myths and Legends of the World, The Bronze Cauldron, and The Crystal Pool, three follow-ups to her book The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World. In Greek Gods and Goddesses she recounts fifteen myths from ancient Greece and its pantheon of gods and goddesses. This 1998 title was followed in 2001 with Roman Myths, which also features illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark. Here McCaughrean explains that the Romans—rivals of Greece in ancient times—adapted the Greek gods and myths for their own use. In contrast to the Greek stories, which often impart a lesson about human folly, the Roman tales stress the role of fate in life. Myths recounted here include that of Aeneas and the founding of Rome, and the stories of Sibyl, Jupiter, and Diana. McCaughrean also includes some lesser-known Roman legends, such as the tragedy of Erisychthon, who destroyed an ancient sacred forest, and that of Tarquin, a despotic ruler. A Horn Book reviewer found that a "mix of cynicism (on the part of Roman mythology's perpetrators) and credulity (by the populace) makes McCaughrean's ironic, light-hearted tone especially appropriate." School Library Journal reviewer Nina Lindsay also weighed in with a positive assessment, noting that McCaughrean "has accomplished an appealing and approachable introduction to Roman mythology that will make readers want to seek out more."

McCaughrean returns to the stories of the Bible with God's Kingdom: Stories from the New Testament. The tales included here, most of which recount events from the life of Christ, bring figures such as Lazarus and John the Baptist into greater focus. "McCaughrean also does a good job with the more complicated parables, writing them in a way that makes them understandable," remarked Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper. School Library Journal reviewer Patricia Pearl Dole also praised the work, noting that McCaughrean's "text flows smoothly from incident to miracle to parable, often using explanatory bridging matter to clarify the meaning."

Drawing upon pirate lore, McCaughrean spins a fictional tale of a young boy who must find his own way in the world in The Pirate's Son. The story, intended for younger readers, is set in the 1700s, and focuses on Tamo White, the son of a pirate and a woman from Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean. Tamo has been sent to England for schooling, but he returns to Madagascar with two friends, ferried there aboard a ship captained by the seemingly friendly Sheller. The seaman proves unreliable, however, when he tries to sell Tamo's friend Maud into slavery. On Madagascar Tamo finds that his mother has wed King Samson, another pirate, and he must extricate himself and his friends from danger. "The writing lacks only Technicolor, bringing both the exotic locale and its equally exotic pillagers to riotous life," asserted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. School Library Journal reviewer Steven Engelfried also commended the book. "The conclusion is satisfying and convincing," Engelfried noted, adding that the story "develops into a vivid picture of a time and a place new to most youngsters."

A famous figure from Russian folklore is the inspiration for Grandma Chickenlegs, a picture book that features illustrations by Moira Kemp. The work revives the Baba Yaga figure, a terrifying witch, and Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido asserted that "McCaughrean tells the classic tale with her signature wit, grace, and verve." In it, a little girl named Tatia is treated cruelly by her evil stepmother. Having outgrown her clothes, Tatia is sent on a mission to the house of Grandma Chickenlegs to get the sewing needle needed to make a new outfit. The fearsome Grandma, who is actually Baba Yaga, tells Tatia that she must weave a cloth first in order to pay for the needle. The heroine escapes with the help of a doll her late mother had given her, and in the end, her father banishes the stepmother for sending Tatia on the potentially deadly mission. "McCaughrean's well-paced narrative is rich in imagery and humor," remarked a Horn Book critic, who also liked the little touches in the story, like Grandma Chickenlegs' dog and cat, "who sensibly switch their allegiance to Tatia" and become "appealingly anxious to protect the little girl." A Publishers Weekly contributor also commended the book. "McCaughrean's … language is refreshingly original," the reviewer stated, and termed Grandma Chickenlegs a "spirited retelling" that "fairly vibrates with vigorous images."

How the Reindeer Got Their Antlers is a compelling story about Santa's famed sleigh-pullers. The legend opens with the creation of the animal kingdom by an angel, who bestows on the reindeer a knobby crown. Ashamed, the primordial ancestor flees to a cold hideout for ten millennia. One day, a man in a red coat, his sleigh overladen, alights in the wintry land of the forgotten reindeer and asks for help. The descendants of that first reindeer agree to assist, hoping that the stranger will not be put off by their tree-like antlers. In return for his success at his mission, Santa offers to give the creatures' antlers of gold—until an accident sends the sleigh into an icy lake, and the reindeers' strong horns rescue it. Grateful, Santa changes his bequest, and instead of gold antlers gives them the ability to fly for one night each year. "A pleasant holiday porquoi story by the indefatigable McCaughrean, this makes a nice addition to the solstice canon," remarked Booklist reviewer DeCandido.

McCaughrean has earened critical praise for The Stones Are Hatching, a book for younger readers. Based on an old Celtic tale, the story also blends elements from other cultures in its tale of Phelim Green and his unusual adventures. The youngster lives in England in 1919, where he is belittled daily by his vicious sister. One day the shy and reclusive eleven year old awakes and finds the house wrecked. A spirit called the Domovoy— a house guardian borrowed from Slavic folklore—tells him to go out into world and rescue it from the Hatchlings of the Stoor Worm. Phelim thinks the Domovoy is mistaken and has inadvertently selected the wrong person for the hero's job, but he sets out anyway. Along the way he meets animals and a witch who join him on his journey to the mouth of the Stoor Worm. They learn that the massive artillery of World War I has awakened this beast from centuries of sleep, and eggs of stone are now hatching horrendous creatures near its snout. There is much adventure along the way, including Phelim's escape from a determined, ambulatory sack of digestive organs. "While it maybe too violent for some, this evocative and sometimes profound fantasy distinguishes itself by way of vivid imagery, compelling action and often Siren-like lyricism," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Other reviews of The Stones Are Hatching were similarly laudatory. "With lyrical language, pieces of old songs and poetry, and wondrous imagery, McCaughrean has created a story of amazing depth and breadth," remarked Martha Walke in Horn Book. School Library Journal contributor Susan L. Rogers noted the way that the author interweaves lessons about loyalty and the human spirit into her tale, and wrote that McCaughrean's approach illustrates to readers "that the horrors of war and the loss of a friend are worse than all of the monsters Phelim encounters."

McCaughrean once told SATA: "Having struggled with several unsuccessful and unpublished novels, I have now found that my true talent lies in writing for children. In doing so, I have cleaned up a previously elaborate and overwritten style into one that is both more valid and of more use to publishers. This pure luck of being in the right place at the right time has led to the remarkable good fortune of making a living from the thing I like doing best."

Biographical and Critical Sources


BOOKS


Children's Literature Review, Volume 38, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1995.

PERIODICALS


Booklist, March 15, 1986, p. 1079; October 15, 1989, p. 461; December 15, 1989, p. 834; February 1, 1993, Hazel Rochman, review of Greek Myths, p. 982; July, 1995, Chris Sherman, review of The Odyssey, p. 1873; October 1, 1995, April Judge, review of The Random House Book of Stories from the Ballet, p. 310; May 1, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World, p. 1501; April 15, 1997, Karen Morgan, review of The Silver Treasure: Myths and Legends of the World, p. 1424; October, 1997, Kathy Piehl, review of Unicorns! Unicorns!, p. 104; November 15, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of Unicorns! Unicorns!, p. 566; March 1, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of God's People: Stories from the Old Testament, p. 1130; April 15, 1998, Wilma Longstreet, review of The Silver Treasure, p. 1460; May 15, 1998, John Peters, review of The Bronze Cauldron: Myths and Legends of the World, p. 1624; August, 1998, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Pirate's Son, p. 2000; October 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of God's People, p. 343; November 15, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Greek Gods and Goddesses, p. 584; May 15, 1999, John Peters, review of The Crystal Pool: Myths and Legends of the World, p. 1694; October 15, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Grandma Chickenlegs, p. 449; January 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of God's Kingdom: Stories from the New Testament, p. 914; July, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of My First Oxford Book of Stories, p. 2037; September 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of How the Reindeer Got Their Antlers, p. 134; February 15, 2001, Karen Hutt, review of Starry Tales, p. 1136; September 1, 2001, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Roman Myths, p. 101; December 1, 2001, Anna Rich, review of The Stones Are Hatching, p. 664; November 1, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of One Bright Penny, p. 509; August, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Stop the Train!, p. 1981; September 1, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Gilgamesh the Hero, p. 77; October 15, 2003, Linda Perkins, review of Casting the Gods Adrift: A Tale of Ancient Egypt, p. 412; December 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Odysseus, p. 739; April 15, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Perseus, p. 1452; August, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Not the End of the World, p. 2015; October 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Jesse Tree, p. 70.

Books for Keeps, May, 1989, Stephanie Nettell, review of A Pack of Lies, p. 25.

British Book News Children's Books, June, 1987, Jessica Yates, review of A Little Lower than the Angels, p. 30.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1988, pp. 161-162.

Growing Point, July, 1987, pp. 4824-4826.

Guardian (London, England), October 7, 2006, Philip Ardagh, review of Peter Pan in Scarlet.

Horn Book, June, 1983, pp. 342-343; May-June, 1996, Maria B. Salvadore, review of The Golden Hoard, p. 342; November, 1998, Kristi Beavin, review of The Silver Treasure, p. 767, and Ann A. Flowers, review of The Pirate's Son, p. 735; January, 2000, review of Grandma Chickenlegs, p. 88; July, 2000, Martha Walke, review of The Stones Are Hatching, p. 462; July, 2001, review of Roman Myths, p. 464; July-August, 2003, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Stop the Train!, p. 462; September-October, 2003, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Gilgamesh the Hero, p. 622; July-August, 2005, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Not the End of the World, p. 473.

Junior Bookshelf, February, 1983, Marcus Crouch, review of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, p. 44; February, 1985, Marcus Crouch, review of The Canterbury Tales, pp. 41-42; June, 1987, Marcus Crouch, review of A Little Lower than the Angels, p. 135; August, 1989, pp. 159-160; February, 1990, p. 47; February, 1994, Marcus Crouch, review of Gold Dust, pp. 34-35; February, 1995, pp. 38-39; February, 1996, p. 26.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1987, p. 1577; September 15, 1989, p. 1406; October 15, 1989, review of El Cid, p. 1532; April 1, 1992, review of The Cherry Tree, p. 466; May 15, 1993, review of Over the Deep Blue Sea; August 1, 1998, review of The Pirate's Son, p. 1121; May 1, 2001, review of Roman Myths, p. 664; June 1, 2003, review of Casting the Gods Adrift, p. 808; September 15, 2003, review of Gilgamesh the Hero, p. 1178; November 15, 2004, review of Odysseus, p. 1091; April 15, 2005, review of Perseus, p. 478; June 15, 2005, review of Not the End of the World, p. 687; October 1, 2005, review of Theseus, p. 1084.

Kliatt, November, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of The Kite Rider, p. 17; July, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Not the End of the World, p. 13, and Phyllis LaMontagne, review of Stop the Train!, p. 23.

Magpies, March, 1997, review of The Silver Treasure, p. 18; March, 1998, review of God's People, pp. 22-23; March, 2001, review of Gold Dust, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly, April 28, 1989, review of A Pack of Lies, p. 82; April 15, 1996, review of The Golden Hoard, p. 69; August 25, 1997, review of Unicorns!Unicorns!, p. 71; May 11, 1998, review of The Bronze Cauldron, p. 68; September 7, 1998, review of The Pirate's Son, p. 96; May 10, 1999, review of The Crystal Pool, p. 69; August 16, 1999, review of The Pirate's Son, p. 87; October 25, 1999, review of Grandma Chickenlegs, p. 80; December 20, 1999, review of God's Kingdom, p. 78; May 29, 2000, review of The Stones Are Hatching, p. 83, and Once upon a Time, p. 84; September 25, 2000, review of How the Reindeer Got Their Antlers, p. 72; March 19, 2001, review of Starry Tales, p. 101; August 20, 2001, review of Roman Myths, p. 82; May 26, 2003, review of Stop the Train!, p. 71; July 7, 2003, review of Casting the God's Adrift, p. 72; November 10, 2003, review of Stop the Train!, p. 37; December 13, 2004, review of Odysseus, p. 69; July 25, 2005, review of Not the End of the World, p. 78; August 29, 2005, review of The Jesse Tree, p. 60.

School Librarian, December, 1982, pp. 339-340; September, 1985, p. 239; February, 1989, Valerie Caless, review of A Pack of Lies, p. 31; February, 1993, Pauline Long, review of The Orchard Book of Greek Myths, p. 22; May, 1994, Janet Tayler, review of The Odyssey, p. 62; May, 1994, pp. 72, 74; February, 1996, p. 21; winter, 1999, review of Beauty and the Beast, p. 213.

School Library Journal, February, 1986, Ruth M. McConnell, review of The Canterbury Tales, p. 82; April, 1988, p. 102; March, 1990, p. 209; April, 1993, pp. 136-137; December, 1995, Kay McPherson, review of The Random House Book of Stories from the Ballet, p. 120; March, 1996, Cheri Estes, review of The Golden Hoard, pp. 211-212; April, 1997, Patricia Lothrop-Green, review of The Silver Treasure, p. 153; March, 1998, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of God's People, p. 198; July, 1998, Angela J. Reynolds, review of The Bronze Cauldron, p. 108; October, 1998, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Greek Gods and Goddesses, p. 157; November 1, 1998, Steven Engelfried, review of The Pirate's Son, p. 124; August, 1999, Angela J. Reynolds, review of The Crystal Pool, p. 174; October, 1999, Lisa Falk, review of The Nutcracker, p. 68; April, 2000, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of God's Kingdom, p. 122; June, 2000, Susan L. Rogers, review of The Stones Are Hatching, p. 150; September, 2000, Mirriam Lang Budin, review of My First Oxford Book of Stories, p. 220; October, 2000, review of How the Reindeer Got Their Antlers, p. 61; December, 2000, Susan Scheps, review of Beauty and the Beast, p. 134; July, 2001, Nina Lindsay, review of Roman Myths, p. 96; December, 2001, Suzanne Libra, review of The Stones Are Hatching, p. 76; August, 2003, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Casting the Gods Adrift, p. 162; Bruce Anne Shook, review of Stop the Train!, p. 163; December, 2003, Patricia D. Lothrop, review of Gilgamesh the Hero, p. 171; December, 2004, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Odysseus, p. 163; August, 2005, Kathy Piehl, review of Not the End of the World, p. 130, and Miriam Lang Budin, review of Perseus, p. 146; October, 2005, review of Odysseus, p. 52; January, 2006, Linda L. Walkins, review of The Jesse Tree, p. 106, and Miriam Lang Budin, review of Hercules, p. 158.

Teacher Librarian, June, 2000, Jessica Higgs, review of Greek Gods and Goddesses, p. 54, and Myths and Legends of the World and The Crystal Pool, p. 55; February, 2003, Liza Graybill, review of One Bright Penny, p. 115.

Time International, February 13, 2006, Michael Brunton, "Return to Neverland," p. 53.

Times Educational Supplement, January 14, 1983, p. 33; February 1, 1985, Terry Jones, "Pilgrims' Way," p. 27; March 10, 1989, p. B13; June 9, 1989, p. B12; November 10, 1989, p. 58; October 30, 1992, section 2, p. 7; November 12, 1993, Brian Slough, "Gold Fever," p. 3; April 23, 1999, Geraldine Brennan, review of Roman Myths and Legends, p. 11; December 24, 1999, review of A Pack of Lies, p. 27.

Times Literary Supplement, November 25-December 1, 1988, p. 1322.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1997, Roxy Ekstrom, review of The Silver Treasure, p. 204.

Washington Post Book World, July 10, 2005, Elizabeth Ward, review of Not the End of the World, p. 12.

ONLINE


Geraldine McCaughrean Home Page, http://www.geraldinemccaughrean.com.uk (October 2, 2006).

Peter Pan in Scarlet Web site,http://www.peterpaninscarlet.com/ (October 20, 2006).

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